Darkness all around me. I cannot see yet I know my eyes are open. My body limp on a cold hard surface, jagged ends push against me. Move, I must move but I cannot. So tired, so cold. Where am I? Who am I? I wait longer for my eyes to adjust, nothing comes. So many questions, no answers only darkness. Why am I not scared? What is there to be afraid of? I need to move to find an answer. I must do something. Slowly, oh so very slowly, I move my head. Pain strikes through my body and now I can feel a warm wet patch on the floor beneath my cheek. The cold and exhaustion soon comes back filling me with numbness. I thought I saw something. No, I couldn’t have. A faint light glows. There it is again. What is it? A way out? It has to be an answer. There is nothing else in this world of darkness. The light has gone again but I know where it is now. It is just a matter of moving.
I start with my hands trying to flex the muscles through my arms. I cannot feel them moving but they have to be, it is the only way out. I move them up, one arm over my chest and one arm stretched out to grab something, anything to help. I must rollover. I pull and twist at the same time. Abrupt excruciating agony strikes through my body. A spasm runs through my back. I try to relax and for a split second I forget about getting up. I can still feel the pain, at least I know I am still alive! The small energy I have is fleeing away from me, draining out of me as a red ooze. I begin to give up, it is hopeless I cannot get out. It is easier this way, anything is better than that Agony. I slowly close my eyes and I see that small luminous light again. No! I must move. It is my ray of light, my small hope. Again I reach over to grab something invisible and unfelt but this time I push with the other hand forgetting about twisting. I start to move. The pain comes back again, running through my body causing me to shudder but I push through this time. Only thinking of the light and what answers it will bring. I collapse onto my front realising that my legs are not working, I begin to scramble pulling myself along the jagged surface towards the light source, living off borrowed energy pushing through agonising barriers. I get closer inch by inch. One individual painful movement at a time. As I get closer I realise that the light is too small to be a way out. At this point it does not matter the light is consuming me, I have to get to it! Harder and harder. Deeper and deeper, I push into the very essence of my strength until the light is beneath me. There it is right under my nose, a small light shimmering like a glowing gem. It does not illuminate its surroundings but I am fascinated by the beauty of it. Staying the same colour while also seeming to ebb through so many pale perfect colours. I am captivated by its immense display. Only I and it left in the world now. I reach out and touch it…
Uthra opened his eyes, all he could see was blurred shadows. A dim light filtered through this distorted image. He could not process what he was seeing, like a fog had been laid down upon his mind. The mere act of thinking was as hard as finding clarity to what his eyes were telling him. Thoughts would try to form but were blanketed in darkness as soon as they were reached for. All he could hold in his mind was the feeling of a faint memory of an even fainter dream. He could not grasp any details, just a sense of nothingness. But there was something to this nothingness.
His eyes focused. This felt new, like it was the first time his eyes had figured out how to focus. It was at this point Uthra realised he was not breathing. He gasped in a great breath and slowly exhaled as the fog over his mind began to disappear. He was standing in a dark room, nothing around him could be made out, the only light came from an archway a few paces in front of him. Through this archway was a deep purple wall with a circular image. He was drawn to this image. Hesitantly he took a step, this also felt new. Slowly he took another step, his body did not feel right, as if he was not in his body. Like it was somebody else’s, everything felt new his thoughts, his movements, his feelings. He knew what to do and how to do it but it was like he had never done it before.
He cautiously peered around the corner, leading into a corridor a few arm’s lengths wide. The walls were the same deep purple, they curved into the roof where a natural light seeped through. This was just enough light to illuminate the hallway so as to create no dark patches. Although the source of this light was unknown. Uthra crept out. The walls were covered in detailed carvings, engraved from floor to roof. At the end of these engravings was a grand archway holding some kind of door. Even at this distance, he could see it was a beautiful piece of artwork.
Taking another step Uthra could see that the walls depicted a story, the circular image in front of him was a planet, along from this were images of humanoid creatures creating fire and tools, this grew into intricate buildings and technologies until finally there were what only can be described as spaceships, voyaging to new planets that were covered in structures themselves. The next carving showed two differing humanoids shaking hands, similar characteristics but one was tall and slender while the other was more stocky looking.
Nearing the end of the hallway, Uthra realised he hadn’t noticed himself walking the 20 paces there. He stood in awe staring up at the intricately designed archway. A planet with one flower shaped settlement in the middle. The details were endless, the closer he stepped the more he could see. A linear crack appeared in the centre of the planet and before he knew it the two sides had separated, opening into a small circular room. A quick glance of the room showed screens, computer panels and a large beaming man with a smile on his face. he had his arms reaching out in a friendly and unthreatening manner. This was obviously to put Uthra at ease, and it worked. This man looked like an expert at being friendly and although Uthra was unsure of most things at this point, his instincts were certain of one thing at least. That this man seemed to care about him.
“Welcome to Ukantu Uthra,” the man said in a cheerful but easygoing voice “ I am Iteroah, and we are the Zelari”
Iteroah was wearing a grass green and purple robe, embroidered with striking rich patterns that seemed to flow out from the pendant around his neck. This pendant held the shape of the academy symbol, how Uthra had come to understand this shape he did not know. Dark short hair with tints of grey, this and his trustworthy eyes were the only parts that showed any age, his face completely free of lines.
“I’m sure you have many questions,” he said “so let’s start with the fundamentals. Your name is Uthra” as Iteroah said his name for the second time, he felt a familiarity spreading over the word, although if asked about his name a few moments before Uthra would not have been able to give an answer. Uthra prepared a question.
“We are in the inauguration room of the academy,” Iteroah said as if reading his mind “Today is a special day for you, today is the day that you became aware or sentient. All insentient’s are cultured in suspended animation until they reach maturity. After the brain hits a critical mass it becomes fully viable to host life. Sometime after, the brains neurological processes change. A spark of life, a sense of awareness, thoughts and feelings develop. Therefore we wake you. Happy first aware day Uthra” he said this last bit with a smile on his face, he still found this amusing no matter how many times he had said it in the past. Uthra felt more confused than ever now. If this was his first day of being aware, then how did he know what objects are and how they worked. In fact, how did he understand the words Iteroah was saying.
“You will know many things,” Iteroah said before Uthra could voice the question “ while your brain is gestating we feed it information about the world. Speech and movement are one of the first bits of information, although the capacity of a brain is not limitless. So once the basics are in place, we allow the brain to consume what information it prefers. These are your skills and interests. Please stand here.” He indicated a concave circular shape in the centre of the room, only noticeable because it was smoother than the rest of the floor. As Uthra moved towards this pad, Iteroah situated himself behind an elongated computer panel. Uthra could not see the buttons Iteroah was pressing only the metallic backing plate but with every finger movement, a tight satisfying beep could be heard. An almost imperceivable current ran through Uthra’s body, the feeling not unlike walking through air. Uthra went to ask what he was doing but before he got the chance Iteroah spoke first.
“I’m scanning your body and mind for anything unusual,” he said, raising his head and giving Uthra a warm disarming smile. “The results look nominal, seems to me like you are a healthy adult ready to be enrolled. It’s showing me that your brain was naturally attracted to leadership and physical information. There are other interests but I will let you figure them out on your journey. Wouldn’t want to give too much away now, where’s the fun in that?” A quick chuckle followed by another warm and quieting smile.
“Based on the results” he continued “ The best course of action is to enrol you in a Guardianship, you will be trained to be a protector of the realm and defender of the people. Although nowadays there is not much to defend or protect against, I feel you will be pleasantly satisfied with this career path. In time you will become the leader of your own team of guardians, who knows maybe one day you could be a prestigious bodyguard to one of the council.” Iteroah pressed another button on the panel
“Could you ask Yui to come to the inauguration room?” he asked with no reply. “ Yui is the guardian instructor here, he will help you prepare for the test. This test is to make sure you can physically perform complex tasks to check your mind body connection, think of it as a physical check over to make sure everything is running smoothly” Uthra wondered what happened to those that do not perform correctly, for the first time Iteroah did not respond to what he was thinking and so Uthra stayed silent. Either Iteroah did not know what he was thinking or more likely he did not want to say. With a distraction from these thoughts, a door opened at the far end of the room to reveal Yui.
The man confidently strode into the room with a quick glance at Uthra before turning his attention to Iteroah. A golden mane of hair gently curled down to his shoulder, almost juvenile features and playful eyes cemented a youthful look. He held perfect posture wearing sky blue cloths, comfortable bottoms which allowed his movement to flow freely. In comparison, his tight top looked restrictive showing the outlines of a muscular body. At this point, with a momentary look down, Uthra realised what he was wearing. It could only be described as a plain grey nighty. Feeling a little out of place Uthra subconsciously stood up straight.
“Uthra this is Yui,” Iteroah said. “He takes his training quite seriously, Don’t you Yui?”
“As seriously as everything else in my life,” Yui said with a mischievous grin spreading across his face. “Come on Uthra I will show you around. First lesson how to walk.” A slight chuckle emanated from his throat.
“I think this is one thing I can do,” Uthra said with a first smile. His voice felt unfamiliar, Uthra realised this was the first time he had spoken. The sound was deep but smooth, it was the sound of a man’s voice, not quite his voice. For now, Uthra only felt like a bewildered boy.
The Raeloir’s quarters was vaster than most, he was the head of state and with that came with some privileges, although there was no décor inside. The floor curved into the walls which looked like the same grown purple metallic surfaces that made up all the buildings in this city. Rejected chairs and a couch lay untouched around a knee-height table in the centre of the room. These were from an age ago when the Raeloir had regular company. An engraved wooden table sat abreast one of the cold smooth walls, accompanied by eight firm seats for personal meetings. Along the other side of the room ran a continuous window.
This is where Lyra stood, she had been waiting patiently next to the thoughtful Raeloir for hours now. Not a word had been said. It was not a bad place to be waiting, she had always loved the view this window gave of Ukantu. Situated in one of the tree-like skyscrapers, she could see across Ukantu with ease. Bathed in sunlight, the reflective surfaces shined back at her making the world sparkle like a sunset on a sea. Ahead of her was a straight road that ran through a myriad of estates to the inner wall which dwarfed the buildings around it, this indicated the end of the inner city. A swollen gate permitted the road to pass through this wall and into the outer city. The outer city was a place of production where food was synthesised, energy was recycled and vehicles were manufactured. At this distance it looked to be a blur of constant motion, great wells moved to pump nutrients, cranes carried building sized crates and small aircraft busily passengered Zelari from one place to another. Past all this motion Lyra could just make out the grand academy building, fused to the academy around halfway up was the outer wall. This stretched around the entire city.
Lyra after years of practice had got used to waiting, being the personal bodyguard to the Realoir it was one of her jobs. Pondering for hours at end was not unusual for him, but this had become more frequent of late. He held a frown above his glazed eyes, his face emanated age and wisdom. Nobody knew how old he was, he had been the Raeloir long before Lyra was awakened. Long before anyone was awakened if the rumours were true. His age along with his name had been lost to time. She often fantasied about asking him but it was not her place. Lyra doubted he would give an answer anyway. He liked the mystery, he liked to keep people guessing. His straight silver hair ran down to meet his usual robes. Embroidered with runes each symbolising a house of the council. He changed the colours but it was always the same symbolic style of robe he wore. His eyes came back into focus.
“I am not long for this world Lyra,” The Realoir said, his deep soft voice filling the bare room. Lyra did not feel the gravity of the words. She did not want to feel, the emotions would only get in the way of her thoughts. “I have set plans in motion for the successor to take my place.”
“Are you unwell?” Lyra said. Internally she cursed herself for such a blunt question. She had a habit of overstepping her place with instantaneous questions. The Realoir seemed to like that about her. He smiled.
“No, but one does not live as long as I have without a deep understanding of life and death,” He said his face showing more of its age. “I can feel a shadow falling upon me. It is my time.”
“Who is this new leader?” Lyra could not help herself, she had to know whom she needed to protect. “You cannot trust the council and who else could measure up to your legacy?”
“No not the council,” He said his face growing lighter as if the clouds had moved away but there were no clouds today. “ New blood Lyra, new idea’s, new concepts a new passion. We have been living in a cycle for millennia now, and this cycle must be broken if we are ever to grow as a society again. I have voiced my opinion to the council many times and they just brush my ideas aside. We used to work in harmony but they have got too comfortable in their seats, they have gained the support of the people and now they work against me. Fearing change, they will do anything to keep the old ways. But we are stagnating in our repetitiveness and so things must change.”
“Ungar” He called, and a lumbering piece of metal came out of one of the adjacent rooms. It had a head and four limbs but that was all it had similar to a Zelari. Its head almost touched the already high ceiling, every step let out a heavy metallic clunk that Lyra could feel vibrating through the floor and into her feet. Its tree trunk legs were attached to a comparatively small triangular torso, long arms stretched down to almost touching the floor as its oversized featureless oval head hung low so no neck could be seen. It had joints that bent with ease but no obvious mechanical parts were moving. Apart from the heavy thumps as it walked it did not make any noise. Lyra knew this to be one of the Danoiri, a creature that was grown the same way the rest of the city was grown. Created to serve they helped with every task a Zelari could think of.
“You have named it?” Lyra said feeling shocked, knowing that this was against tradition.
“Yes Lyra,” said the Realoir “ Many things must change and it can all start with a name, although he is of a hive mind, he has served me well for many years. He is as loyal servant as you are ever going to get. I thought it was about time I gave him a name. They are the only creatures that are as old as I am. Though they seem to act like mindless servants I feel as if there is more to them than they like to let on. Tell me, Ungar, what do you think of your name” he said turning to the creature.
“We are the Danoiri. We have no names” the Danoiri said with no mouth. The voice echoed out from somewhere behind the head.
“Hmmm,” said the Realoir thoughtfully “ He is going to need some practice I think, what is your name?”
“We are Ungar,” The Danoiri said. A moment passed.
“Yes definitely needs practice,” the Realoir said squinting his eyes.
The vast spire of the academy building pointed towards the sky, the smooth surfaces twisting down rapidly becoming more uneven. Bulges bubbled up from the metal as the tower met the roots. Roots that entwined into the outer wall and the earth beneath. From a distance it looked like it had been grown, pulling its nutrients up through the roots trying the reach the sky. Sunken entrances lay hidden beneath, allowing access from multiple angles. Behind this endowering building lay the training grounds. An extensive field of green crossed from the observation stands to the small arched wall that marked the end of the city. Beyond this, there were more fields and in the distance, trees could be seen. It was late in the day, the academy cast a great shadow over the training grounds. Uthra was pleased to be standing within this shade. Beads of sweat dripped off of his face with every panting breath he took. He had been training with Yui for most of the day now, without a break other than a couple of spoken words here and there.
A few days had passed since his awakening, these days had turned into a blur of busyness. The only time he could relax was when he was eating or sleeping, the rest was spent training in some form or another, most of which was with a sword out here in the grounds. He was not alone, apart from Yui there was around 20 other Zelari each in their groups or duo’s doing numerous different teachings. None of which were ever training as hard as Yui and him. The training sword swiftly darted towards him as Yui came in with another blow. Uthra moved and deflected countering with an attack of his own. He had seen Iteroah a few times in the recent days, walking past him in the corridor. A nod of acknowledgement was all he got, Uthra presumed he was a busy man looking after the academy. Another attack quicker than the last, Uthra barely got his sword up in time, the hard polished wood making contact with his shoulder, a thud of pain came from this area but this was nothing. Uthra knew now not pay it any attention, the distraction would lead to another harder and more painful blow. Uthra went on the attack again, which was easily glanced aside by Yui. The first time Uthra had picked up the bokken sword it had felt natural to him, he enjoyed sparing, he felt good at it, the surge of adrenaline, the excitement, the chess battle of attack, counter and deflect. What he did not enjoy was the pain of getting hit. Every time he thought he was getting used to the pain Yui would hit him with a harder blow. Every time Uthra would improve his skill Yui would up the game, every step in the right direction opened another world of skill. Uthra wondered just how much Yui was holding back. He had barely spoken to anyone else over the last few days, apart from Yui. A few polite exchanges but that was about it. Uthra guessed most people were still trying to figure out who they were and therefore did not have much to talk about. The exhaustion of the day’s trials was hitting Uthra hard, he decided to try a new strategy.
“Do you ever feel like it’s a bit boring?” Uthra asked through panting breaths.
“What do you mean?” Yui said, his breath deep and controlled not a drop of sweat on his face.
“Well,” Uthra said, taking a moment for thought as Yui came in with another blow. Uthra realised talking would not help. “ We all have our roles set out for us, based on some computer program, like we don’t have any free will”
“It is a very sophisticated computer program,” said Yui smiling “ you are asking the right questions though” He would always say this when Uthra mentioned anything that came from outside the box thinking. He still did not know what Yui meant by the right questions.
“What if I wanted to be something other than a guardian” Uthra continued.
“Like what?” Yui asked his usual smile growing larger as Uthra deflected another blow. “ there is nothing else in your world, you couldn’t possibly conceive of another profession to be because you have not yet experienced anything else”
“How did you become a trainer then?” Uthra asked.
“When a Zelari shows exceptional skill in their field they are asked to remain here to train others” Yui explained, “ but I am still a guardian, still in the same profession they gave me.” Uthra would not be beaten on this topic, he had been beaten enough in his training. He glanced around the grounds looking for something else he could do, looking for anything he could say he would enjoy doing. A mound of mossy dirt was out of place, not like it had been knocked out of place during combat training, no this mound of dirt was floating a couple of feet above the ground. A Zeld stood over it hand outstretched concentration on his face. This distraction cost Uthra, a foot attached to Yui’s leg impacted Uthra in the chest sending him to the floor. He bounced off the ground, the moss cushioning his fall. Earlier in the week, he had been told that this moss was the sustenance of the city, it held all the proteins and vitamins a person needed. This is how all of the food was synthesised. Even now Uthra could see a harvester in the distance, its long arms stretching out to cut the moss to a specific level. The moss made the ground soft like a foam mat, perfect for being thrown down on. For this Uthra was grateful but he was still not able to breathe. Winded he tried to pull himself up.
“Always be aware of your surrounding no matter what,” Yui said holding out his hand to help Uthra up.“ You can focus your attention on one thing while allowing your mind to absorb the rest, your mind is powerful and will pick up on threats even if you are not conscious of them, giving you a chance to react” he looked serious but after a moment the usual smile cracked across his face.
“You are quite the daydreamer for a guardian,” He said with a chuckle, Uthra would have chuckled but he was still trying to suck in his first breath. That was when Yui attacked again. This time Uthra was not distracted, forgetting the need to breathe he deflected the blow. He would not give him any ground now, the blow of pain had shocked him into a state of adrenaline, he was partially annoyed at Yui for taking his distraction as an advantage, he was not about to fail again. He put the annoyance to the back of his mind. There was no time to think as another blow came hammering for his chest, breathing better now Uthra swiped the attack aside and went on the offensive, flowing with his sword in hand he struck. It was countered and then it was Uthras turn to deflect, this went on for a while. Attack, counter, blow, deflect, their form becoming unison. Neither one of them landing a blow they flowed like a dance, steadily mirroring one another with their individual movements. Unique symmetry as the passage of time disappeared, Uthra would not have been able to say how long had past as the same physical chess battle continued but when Yui finally stopped attacking, putting his sword to his side, Uthra heard clapping. He looked around to see that a small crowd had formed. Most of the Zelari from the grounds were clapping at them. Yui took a slight bow revelling in the moment. Uthra did not know what to do, it was too sudden of a change from the intense fight to the shock of being the centre of attention. Yui prompted him with a nod and Uthra took a bow.
In the infinite void of space, nothingness is pierced by mineraloid matter. A grey crater ridden surface comes into view illuminated by the systems distant star. The ever-spinning monolith plots its path through the frozen vacuum, the inevitability of its course becoming sealed within the stone exterior. The asteroid moves at an incomprehensible speed towards its destination, every second bringing it closer to the only goal. Its eyes fixed upon a blue spec of light with one desire, one purpose, one intention. Complete annihilation.